Trauma stands apart from normal events in its intensity and impact. It is often sudden, unanticipated, and out of the blue (at least the first time it occurs), making it all the more shocking. Trauma can include exposures and incidents that anyone would identify as overwhelming, such as physical or sexual assault, combat, major accidents, rape, domestic and community violence, child abuse and terrorist attacks. It can also include exposures and incidents that are less easily identified, such as rejection and humiliation, neglect, abandonment, bullying and emotional abuse (especially when these occur repeatedly over the course of childhood). Traumas can occur on a one-time basis (accident, robbery), on a time limited basis (transportation, weather disaster) or repeatedly to the point of becoming chronic (child abuse, human trafficking, sexual slavery). It is often hard for traumatized individuals to make sense of trauma from an everyday perspective since it is so out of the ordinary in most cases. Plus, victims tend to blame themselves — internalizing and personalizing the effects.
— Christine Courtois

Trauma comes in Many Shapes & Sizes

  • Psychological Trauma: an emotional or psychological injury usually resulting from an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation. Overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope, and leaves that person fearing death, annihilation, mutilation, or psychosis. The individual may feel emotionally, cognitively, and physically overwhelmed. The circumstances of the event commonly include abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, helplessness, pain, confusion, and/or loss.


  • Complex Trauma: Results in the early development years which strings from multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure. Many children with complex trauma histories suffer a variety of traumatic events, such as physical and sexual abuse, witnessing domestic and community violence, separation from family members, and revictimization by others. Complex trauma can have devastating effects on a child’s physiology, emotions, ability to think, learn, and concentrate, impulse control, self-image, and relationships with others. Across the life span, complex trauma is linked to a wide range of problems, including addiction, chronic physical conditions, depression and anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and other psychiatric disorders such as cPTSD.       


  • Toxic Stress: When a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.


  • PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat. PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood.


  • Secondary Trauma: Commonly referred to as "the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person". It is the personal impact of working with victims of trauma.